Buyers' Guide: are 3-cylinder engines the future for small cars?
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Three-cylinder engines were traditionally found only on motorbikes or tractors, where excess noise wasn’t an issue.
However, a number of car manufacturers have revisited the “straight-three” engine, refining them and adding turbochargers in order to increase power and improve economy.
Here are some interesting new models that have chosen to be more economical by having three cylinders over four.
The new Polo uses Volkswagen’s latest MQB platform, which standardises the parts of many of Volkswagen’s front-engined cars in order to cut down production time and engineering costs.
It offers a practical, competitively priced supermini with a good quality finish. Nearly all of the latest Polo models are powered by a 1-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine which produces 70kw at 4500-5500rpm. It ticks along frugally, consuming between 4.4-4.7 litres per 100km.
You can choose between a five-speed manual in the base model TSI, or a swift seven-speed dual-If you enjoy your music, Volkswagen teamed with hip-hop mogul Dr Dre and his Beats Electronics audio company to release a special edition model, featuring a powerful 300W audio system, a racing stripe and slight modifications to the interior trim.
The Polo range is priced from $25,490 (+ORC).
Citroen C4 Cactus Shine
Citroen’s latest Cactus certainly stands out from the crowd.
The interior has door pulls reminiscent of the handles of a retro suitcase. This styling extends to the hatch on the glove box.
The most notable exterior features on the Cactus are its innovative air bump panels that are designed to defend against scratches. These are large and look like they belong on a concept car.
The new Cactus shares the same platform as the smaller C3 and is powered by a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbo engine that produces 81kW at 5500rpm and sips just 5.3L per 100km.
The C4 Cactus Shine is priced from $35,990 (+ORC).
The Focus MK4 Trend is based on a new platform that is longer and offers much better room for the rear passengers, making the new model even more family-friendly than before.
Its highly advanced and efficiently designed 1.5-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine consumes just 5.9 litres per 100km, and generates a respectable 134kW at 6000rpm.
Ford Focus Titanium Photo / Matthew Hansen
The interior has been jazzed up, too, with a futuristic rotary gear selector to control its new eight-speed automatic transmission.
The Ford Focus Trend is priced at $31,990 (+ ORC).
Alec Issigonis unleashed an automotive revolution with a sketch he roughed out on a napkin in his favourite restaurant, and since 1959 it has captured the imagination of many.
The latest model boasts improved dynamics and efficiency with its 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine, which delivers 100kW at 4500rpm thanks to BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology. It’s able to achieve between 5.1-5.5 litres per 100km.
The modern engine shows how far the Mini has come in six decades, despite the size of the original British Moto Corporation (BMC) engine being only slightly less powerful (on paper) at 848cc.
The Mini offers a close-ratio six-speed manual box, which is the standard transmission in almost all models. A seven or eight-speed Steptronic transmission is available on request.
It is priced from $35,990 (+ORC).